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Mosley returns from the vastly underrated Fortunate Son and from Fear of the Dark with a piece of what one might call "deep erotica": there's plenty of sex, and also plenty of motivation for it within protagonist Cordel Carmel's travails and ruminations, as far-fetched as they can get. After a charged-but-chaste lunch with young Lucy Carmichael (a blonde in her early 20s looking to be introduced to Cordel's art agent friend), Cordel, 45, walks in on Joelle (his longtime, non-live-in girlfriend): Joelle's being very consensually sodomized by a white man wearing a red condom, their (very well-endowed) mutual acquaintance, Johnny Fry. Cordel walks out quietly, without being seen. In short order, Cordel buys a porno video and gets enraptured with its sadist star, Sisypha; quits his freelance-translation gig; has conflicted, amazing sex with Joelle (who continues to lie to him); has unconflicted, amazing sex with Lucy (who seems very nice) and with voluptuous neighbor Sasha Bennett (who seems way crazy); meets Sisypha for an Eyes Wide Shut–like experience; seduces the young, ghetto Monica Wells; and finally, within the week, has his confrontation with Johnny Fry. Though it all, Cordel's thoughts on humiliation, submission, pain, family, aging and abuse manage to sustain the wisp-thin plot of this total male fantasy. (Jan.)
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Though he's best at crime novels, Mosley has been busy reinventing himself as an all-around writer of high purpose, trying his hand, with mixed results, at literary fiction, political essay, and science fiction. Despite its noiresque title, this one represents a surprising new direction: what Mosley calls the "sexistential novel." Mild-mannered Cordell Carmel drops by his longtime girlfriend's apartment unannounced and finds her having the orgasm of her life with another man. Carmel sneaks out unseen, disturbed and aroused. Obsessed with a movie that seems to mirror his situation, he transforms from passive nice guy to sexual aggressor--and soon finds himself having the sex of his life, with a series of beautiful, adoring women. Adrift and confused, he keeps going, hoping to find himself by losing control. It's hard to know how much of Mosley's audience will want to follow him on this explicitly sexual journey. The sex scenes are compelling, but the story loses its way; it might be too much sex for some readers and too little novel for others. In a way, it contains the same contradictions as a big-budget porno movie that uses a self-important story line to lend the project an air of legitimacy, then drives home the message that our baser sexual instincts are nothing to be ashamed of. Mosley deserves kudos for his courage, but let's hope sexistentialism is a one-night stand. Keir Graff
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